Students to interview candidates for new safety VP

Student Government (SG) is interviewing three final candidates this week for a new administrative position that will take charge of all campus safety and security measures.

By Louise Lerner

Student Government (SG) is interviewing three final candidates this week for a new administrative position that will take charge of all campus safety and security measures.

The new position, associate vice president for safety and security, will oversee both the UCPD and the Office of Transportation, and will be responsible for a $8.8 million annual budget.

“The idea is that putting everything in one person’s hands allows for the best coordination of safety and security issues,” said University spokesman Steven Kloehn.

An SG committee of undergrads, grad students, and professional school students will begin interviews today to contribute to a decision that will ultimately be made by Zimmer and the administration. SG President and fourth-year Matt Kennedy said the students will seek a candidate who has a vision for the campus community.

“Their understanding of the U of C community and the culture of the institution will be very important,” Kennedy said. “They must have an understanding of the issues important to students.”

Kloehn said that after a national search, 125 candidates began the selection process in August. The University hopes to fill the position by January 1.

The University created the new office after a proposal by the Campus Safety and Security Committee, a group of students, faculty, and community members formed to review campus security measures after the murder of grad student Amadou Cisse last November. In March the committee recommended the creation of a new administrative position to oversee all safety initiatives in the University.

President Zimmer announced earlier this year that the new associate vice president will manage an entirely new department for physical security. The department is slated to install electronic access control and closed-circuit television in buildings across campus.

The associate vice president is expected to work with the UCPD to increase the number of full-time police officers and streamline the administrative, budget, and accounting systems for UCPD. The new administrator will spearhead a new alternative nighttime walking escort program, planned in addition to the current UCPD umbrella service, likely to be staffed by a professional security service rather than police officers.

Eve Ewing (A.B. ’08), an alumna who sat on the committee last year as a student, said that she was sometimes embarrassed to realize how unsafe students’ decisions often are.

“The status quo, what we’re working with here, is that at night many students don’t use any of the security measures,” she said.

The Campus Safety and Security committee cited the University of Pennsylvania as its inspiration for the new associate vice president position. At UPenn, the equivalent position manages a $21 million budget and 175 staff members and employs private security officers in addition to campus police. Its director, Maureen Rush, served as a Philadelphia police officer for 18 years and as chief of campus police.

Ewing said UPenn’s private escort service came up as a model despite concerns that U of C students would be reluctant to use such a system.

“We felt hit the sweet spot in making it accepted on campus,” she said.

Kennedy said SG’s goal for the students on the interviewing committee is “to have people in the room who represent a diverse range of viewpoints, people with different ideas about how security should look on campus.”

“It’s also important that they understand how important transportation is to students on campus,” he said, since the new associate vice president will manage the Office of Transportation.

Chief of Police Rudy Nimocks said he too had interviewed several candidates for the associate vice president position.

“They were all very qualified,” he said.